Developer scales back plans for tower along Central Canal

March 20, 2012

The developer of a proposed residential tower designed for college students along the Central Canal in downtown Indianapolis has significantly reduced the size of the project to improve its chances of winning city approval.

Valparaiso-based Investment Property Advisors resubmitted plans to the city on March 14 that show the original $83 million proposal shrinking from 26 stories and 485 apartment units to 10 stories and 293 units.

The number of parking spaces also would shrink, from 434 to 236, within a three-level garage instead of the originally proposed six levels. Commercial space would remain relatively the same, at 2,800 square feet, but first-floor amenity space for residents would more than double, to 10,800 square feet.

north_canal_development_view_15colRenderings of the revised project show a lower-lying structure, cut from 26 to 10 stories. (Ratio Architects)

The city’s Metropolitan Development Commission is set to consider the change in plans at its Wednesday meeting.

The project would be built on two adjoining parcels along Ninth Street between Senate Avenue and the canal: a 1.2-acre property that includes the offices and warehouse of B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co., and a 0.26-acre canal-front sliver of land the city in August agreed to sell to the developer. Kirkbride is set to leave its property.

Investment Property Advisors put the Kirkbride property under contract and won city approval to rezone the site for multifamily development in 2010, but its development proposal requires another review because of its size and potential impact on the downtown landscape.

The developer’s original plans encountered resistance from neighbors over its height and impact on traffic in the area.  At 26 stories, the tower would have been nearly as tall as the 28-story City-County Building.

“I definitely think 10 stories is more in keeping with the neighborhood, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see the drawings,” said Alise Voigt, director of guidance at Pike High School, who lives along the canal in the Watermark community.

Mayor Greg Ballard supports the scaled-back proposal, spokesman Marc Lotter said, because it still brings density to an area of downtown that’s experiencing more residential development. Projects are being built near Indiana Avenue by developers Buckingham Cos. and Trinitas Ventures.

“We heard a lot of concern from the area that it just didn’t fit with the character of the neighborhood,” Lotter said. "They’ve obviously scaled it back to 10 stories, which is much more fitting with the surrounding area.”

Investment Property Advisors expects to use a mix of private equity and bank loans to finance the project, possibly in conjunction with bonds backed by a tax-increment-finance district covering the area.

It hopes to break ground by September, which would allow the first residents to move in by summer of 2014.

The apartments would be fully furnished—including TVs, beds, couches and desks—and would rent for $700 to $1,100 per bedroom, depending on the number of bedrooms in each unit. The rent would cover cable, Internet and all utilities.

The economics of the project still must make sense for the developer to justify reducing its size, said George Tikijian of the local apartment brokerage Tikijian Associates.

“I don’t know how many more downtown projects can be put up before [the market becomes saturated],” he said, “but at that location they’ve got to feel there’ll be good demand for it.”  

Plans call for the tower to sit back from the canal and Ninth Street, while a larger, four-story base structure would extend to the property lines. The developer would build a public access point to the canal, including an elevator and rest rooms, where Ninth Street dead-ends at the Canal Walk.

Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects is designing the building.

Privately held Investment Property Advisors has focused on mixed-use student housing projects since 2006, including developments near Valparaiso University and the University of Louisville.


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